Tuesday, July 1, 2008

I think my GPS is stupid

I've got a lower end Garmin Nuvi. I love having a GPS. It makes me feel all-powerful. Oh man. I just revealed my innermost weirdness to all 3 people who read this blog. Anyway, I think my GPS is stupid.

My GPS has a great feature. It predicts what time I will arrive at my destination. And it updates this from time to time. But here's the problem:

I live very close to New York City. Often when I plug in an address for directions, I get ridiculous predictions of my arrival time. As if Garmin hasn't got a clue that there is such a thing as traffic in major cities.

I know that higher-end models have a traffic feature where they access a traffic database and can route you around traffic. Maybe these models are more capable of predicting arrival time because they "know" where there is traffic. And I'm sure some techie will tell me how hard all of this is.

I don't care. When I look at my GPS screen and right off the bat it tells me that a trip from New Jersey over the George Washington Bridge and into Westchester will take 15 minutes, it makes me think that someone wasn't thinking. The device seems to predict arrival time based on the distance and the speed limit on the road (it knows the difference between a highway and a local road). But not all miles on 55 MPH roads are the same. Driving from Fort Lee, NJ right over the George Washington Bridge into Manhattan can easily take 20 minutes. Driving that same mile west rather than east would take 1 minute. We all get this. It's obvious.

So I would suggest that if Garmin can't make this feature work intelligently on my low-end device, that it shouldn't offer the feature at all. It makes them look stupid and incompetent. And for what? The core functionality (i.e., telling me how to get from one place to another) works wonderfully. Why sacrifice your image for a nice to have?

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